Why Fiber Art?
I love working with textiles. It allows me to create work with dimension, movement and texture that is invitingly tactile. The images I choose to work with are abstracted somewhat when printed on fabric and further transformed by threads and stitching. I am excited by both my involvement in the process and by the finished pieces.
What is your design process?
I draw my inspiration from a particular plant, scenic wonder, or architectural image. I make prints on fabric (see below), select a color scheme, prepare patchwork components, then work intuitively and fairly quickly to combine them. This is the exciting part! Once the surface cloth is complete, I layer it with batting and backing, and add depth, texture, and movement with stitching. If the work calls for it, I may add embellishment with hand beading or paint. My goal is to produce work with a strong graphic appeal when viewed from a distance that has a lot of fine detail to reward a closer look. I also aim to design work that goes beyond novelty appeal and has a timeless quality.
Although I draw on a variety of techniques, technique is never the motivating force behind the design. I have a motto: Technique should be the servant of intent.
What are your favorite techniques?
I employ several surface design techniques: cyanotype, heliographic prints, collagraphy, thermofax screen printing, digital image printing, and needlefelting.
How do you make a cyanotype?
I start with fabric that has been chemically pre-treated. (see Links). Working in dim light, I lay plant material or transparencies made from my photographs on the fabric. I take the assemblage outside into strong sunlight for a timed exposure. After exposure, the chemicals are rinsed out to reveal prints in that beautiful Prussian blue color. Once the fabric is dried the prints are very stable. I find the process to be endlessly variable and fascinating.
How do you make a heliographic print?
A heliographic print is a monoprint made on fabric using textile paints. I start with cotton or silk PFD (prepared for dying) fabric, paint it, arrange plant materials on it, and expose the assemblage to strong sunlight. While drying, the paint wicks out from under the plant material and leaves a print. As with cyanotypes, the process depends partly on skill and partly on serendipity.
Where do you get your fabric?
I buy PFD (prepared for dyeing) cotton and silk and hand paint or print it. I collect high quality commercial cotton prints, silks, and wools from specialty suppliers. And I am lucky to have a good stash of silks brought back from India and cotton prints saved from the last half-century of family dressmaking.
How long did it take to make that?
This is probably the question I am asked most frequently, and the one I have the least satisfactory answer for. I do track my hours in the studio, but it’s difficult to quantify a lot of the effort that goes into any individual work. There’s time spent hiking and taking photographs, and essential time thinking about the inspiration and design. The business aspects--including procuring textiles and supplies, photographing and documenting the work, updating the website/blog/social media sites, and working with exhibit venues—take up approximately 50% of my studio time.
That being said, the short answer is that one of my larger works represents several hundred hours spent designing, cutting, and stitching.
How should I care for fiber art?
Treat it like you would a fine watercolor—hang it away from direct sunlight, and where it won’t be subject to accidental smoke or water damage.
How can I learn more about your process?
I am available for lectures and trunk shows--see the "Lectures" page.
Information and instruction about my surface design process can be found on my Quilting Arts Workshop Video, Surface Design Essentials for the Printed Quilt.